There is no shortage of items to toss on the backyard grill, if you’ve got a palate curious enough to simply try them. Recently, I decided I’d begin to foray into the more exotic, and working alongside the folks at in Hudson has afforded me the opportunity to branch out beyond the typical barbecue fare. Their retail shop, a space I share where I produce my (located across the street from ), not only includes locally raised beef, pork and chicken, but it also carries everything from alligator and alpaca to python and zebra. One such item I decided to share with you is fresh, locally raised rabbit from a farm near Menomonie.
While not the most exotic meat in the case, rabbit is somewhat unfamiliar to many people. If one has ever consumed it, likely, most people have never prepared it themselves. Rabbit, both domestic and wild, is an extremely lean, delicate meat, with less than half the calories per pound than beef or pork. Rabbit is not only extremely lean, but is rich in vitamin B12, iron, and heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids. Low in cholesterol and easily digestible, rabbit is one of the healthiest proteins available.
To begin, the rabbit should be cut in a similar manner as you may do with a whole chicken. Start by rinsing the rabbit in cold, running water, then separating the font and hind legs from the back loin and ribcage. The ribcage can then be separated from the back loin muscles (the most tender part f the animal), leaving you with what resembles a small roast. If you search online for tips on how to butcher a rabbit, most instructions will have you remove the loin muscles from both sides of the spine; however, I find it much easier to keep the entire piece of meat intact. There are two thin pieces of meat (the belly flaps) that are easily wrapped around the rest of the "roast," allowing the entire piece to cook evenly and not waste any protein. I also cook the ribcage section, as some of the loin muscle runs into this cut and would truly be a shame to waste.
Rub the rabbit with a blend of complimentary spices, ensuring to evenly coat all of the cuts of meat. A good rub for poultry works beautifully, or you can make a divine spice mixture by adding the following:
- 6 Tbsp Granulated Garlic
- 3 Tbsp Lemon Rind
- 2 Tbsp Granulated Onion
- 1 tsp Rubbed Sage
- ½ tsp Smoked Sweet Paprika
- ½ tsp Ground Cayenne Pepper
Prepare your grill to cook over indirect heat, with the coals banked to one side of your grill to a temperature of 300°F. If using a gas grill, set the grill to a medium heat, with the burners directly under your meat turned off. The smokiness of the grill is what the outdoor cooking experience is all about, so be sure to add chunks of hardwood to the coals or add woodchips in a smoker box or foil pouch if using the gas grill.
Place the rabbit on the grill and cover. Even while cooking with indirect heat, arranging the rabbit on the grill is key. The front legs are smaller and will cook quicker, so be sure to place them as far away from your heat source as possible. The loin muscles and hind legs should be placed nearer the coals or burners, to ensure they are ready at the same time as the smaller cuts are. After spending about 15-20 minutes on the grill, turn the rabbit over and replace the cover. Check the meat after another 15 minutes with a meat thermometer. The rabbit will be done after it has reached an internal temperature of at least 160°F. Once you’ve reached the proper temperature, brush the meat lightly and evenly on all sides with your favorite barbecue sauce, replace the lid and allow the sauces to "set" on the meat for an additional 5 minutes. Remove the rabbit from the grill and enjoy!
Barbecued rabbit may not be the most exotic meat available, but it’s a great start to expanding the culinary horizons on the grill. A delicate, flavorful and extremely healthy option, rabbit can be easy to grill and completely unexpected. With minimal preparation, a few spices to season and a little time on the grill, your experience in cooking a whole rabbit won’t be your last.
Keep on grillin’!